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Insights on Running a Pub or Bar in the UK - Andrew Gray


Andrew Gray, opening his first on-trade outlet, shares some interesting insights about his business.

By : Alistair Morrell


Grays and Feather has always set out with a very particular purpose, vision and strategy – to be the retailer of sparkling wines from around the globe. Considering the growth in awareness and demand for sparkling wines upholding the wine category in the last few years then it seems like excellent timing. MD Andrew Gray, on opening his first on-trade outlet shares his thoughts with us.

Tell us little more about Grays and Feather?

G&F was established in 2011 – to be THE UK retailer of sparkling wines from around the world selling to the British public.

There was no-one, nor is there still, bringing together all these amazing international wines so we did it.

They all had great stories and histories and the stories weren’t being told.

Grays & Feather

We see that as our job. It’s our job to tell the fascinating stories of the amazing people, grapes, terroir, experiences and challenges involved in producing these intriguing and delicious high quality and often award-winning wines that the customer generally doesn’t know about.

We bridge the gap. We learn and pass on our knowledge, find new things for the customer and make the customer experience as a fun as possible

G&F Wellington Street opened in October 2018. It is our flagship bar/ restaurant and it houses the largest selection of international bubbles/ sparkling wines in the UK complimented by exotic sharing plates and an engaging friendly environment.

With a new approach to wine bars, we are counteracting the fact that wine bars can be scary to the average consumer. We make a point of communicating about wine in a simple fun way that the consumer can relate to and so he/she can become more knowledgeable and more comfortable in experimenting with and buying new, different wines

Is the current economic environment good or tough for pubs and bars?

We think everyone would agree its tough due to all-around higher costs, the changing face of the high street and government intervention that doesn’t facilitate good business.

Even a small-scale pub or bar has a million moving parts. How do you assert priorities and yet remain flexible to demand?

It’s about listening to the customer and what they want.

Our priorities are:

1. Customer first. We ask:

 - What do our customers want?

 - How can we best engage them?

 - How can we give the best service so that customers will have a good time & want to come back?

2. The best food and wine: selecting the innovative, high quality and interesting wines & foods that our customers will be enticed by and enjoy so that they return again and again.

3. Having a great team  – we have great, approachable, knowledgeable and well-trained staff whose prime objective is to deliver the best customer experience.

4. Continuously review; ourselves (expertise/service delivery) and the marketplace, to innovate and offer the best customer experience we can.

Food and Wine from Grays and Feather

What are the top 5 priorities in running a great bar?

As above

Which is most important beer, wine, spirits, non-alcoholic drinks?

None are the most important - the most important category is education to enable the customer to chose for himself or herself

What is the hottest sparkling drink trend in Grays & Feather currently?

Sparkling red

How important is it for suppliers to consider sustainability and environmental issues to pubs and bars?

There is a knock on sustainability effect from every person’s actions down the line that produces a lot of waste in our industry. Everyone should always be looking at what they can do to reduce the sustainability impact of each of their actions.

Pubs and bars are still closing at 18 per week (CAMRA Aug 2018) – do pubs have a long-term future in the UK?

Yes of course – if they have survived thousands of years  (the Bingley Arms, offering weary travellers sustenance since 953AD. At 1,061 years old the pub ) it’s unlikely they will die out now.

Pubs and bars have been custodians of places where people can socialise and there will always be a need for that, maybe now more than ever given modern ways of working

Are pubs a place to have a drink or centre of a community?

Pubs and bars are the centre of the community and are even more important in today's society

Grays and Feather Interior

Recruitment seems to be a big issue in the UK hospitality sector. What strategies and tactics can you use to manage it?

By being fair to staff, creating an environment they want to work in and paying them appropriately. It’s often forgotten that a pub/bar is just an empty room without staff. It’s vital to remember that your staff are the people every customer interacts with –the face of your business.

It is impossible to have suppliers turning up with deliveries every 5 minutes. How do you manage range and choice with a limited number of suppliers?

Where there is a will there is a way. Our objective is to offer the widest range so we have to be flexible.

Will Alexa replace bar staff? 

Only time will tell but if you remove human staff from a pub or bar it becomes a supermarket. 

About the Author

Alistair MorrellThe article is contributed by Alistair Morrell, Wine Inspector, wine industry consultant, journalist and, commentator. Over 30 years as a wine business professional, Alistair shares his global knowledge, network, and experience of growers, importers, distributors and buyers.